Show Notes: Episode 137 – How to Have Difficult Conversations at Work (SHRM Credit)
February 28, 2022
Show Notes: Episode 138 – Strengthening Remote Teamwork (SHRM Credit)
March 14, 2022

Click here for this episode’s show notes.

This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors.

Susan 00:02
Well, I think first of all, double and then triple check that you really are right, that your boss is doing something, or he or she wants to do something that’s wrong, and get your facts together, because I think that if you’re coming in with a feeling or an inkling, it’s not going to be nearly as persuasive as if you can come in with some data to help educate that leader about what they’re thinking to do may not be right.

Susan 00:30
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we help HR and business leaders embrace joy in the workplace. I’m Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, an HR consulting practice, and with me is my dear friend and co-host JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and Powered by Purple Ink. Today’s episode subject matter is the result of our very first ever listener’s choice survey. We asked all of our networks what they were most interested in hearing about on The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, and the winning topic was “How to Have Difficult Conversations at Work.” JoDee, I bet that doesn’t surprise you.

JoDee 01:10
Not one bit. [laughs]

Susan 01:13
JoDee and I often get asked for advice on how to navigate uncomfortable situations at work, and often it involves people wanting to know how to have a really good, honest, and open conversation with someone on a topic that may feel pretty unpleasant. In this episode, we’re going to discuss some of the specific difficult conversation questions that we’ve received from you, our listeners. So let’s start with number one, JoDee.

JoDee 01:40
“How do I let my boss or other executives know that something they want to do is wrong?”

Susan 01:48

JoDee 01:49

Susan 01:49
Well, I think first of all, double and then triple check that you really are right, that your boss is doing something, or he or she wants to do something that’s wrong, and get your facts together, because I think that if you’re coming in with a feeling or an inkling, it’s not going to be nearly as persuasive as if you can come in with some data to help educate that leader about what they’re thinking to do may not be right.

JoDee 02:14
Right. And I would definitely sit down one-on-one with them to have this discussion. You know, you might not want to bring this up at a big meeting…[laughs]

Susan 02:21

JoDee 02:21
…with other leaders, but let them know you are putting on your risk mitigation hat. Your intent is not to call them out on this, that you know better than they do, but that you want to… you want to mitigate something that they’re… what they’re doing might be impacting the employees, it might be impacting compliance issues, or all kinds of different things.

Susan 02:47
Yeah, I love that. I love… let them know that what they’re planning to do might invite risk to the organization. And then I think it’s helpful to talk through, What are really your objectives here? What is it that we really need to achieve? And let’s then figure out together, is there an approach that is legal, that’s ethical, that really aligns with the mission, vision, values here? And then let’s try to think about maybe doing it differently.

JoDee 03:12
And, you know, sometimes they might not budge, even though you know it is wrong. So you’ll have to decide… Can you live with this? Maybe make a note of your disagreement, escalate it to your boss, or maybe the executive’s boss – and that might be the CEO, or it might be a board of directors – or you might even decide to leave the organization.

Susan 03:37
Yeah, we hope it doesn’t get to that, but you know what, sometimes there are moments of truth in our career. So I think that we have to recognize that we do have our own boundaries about what we are going to sit by and watch.

JoDee 03:49

Susan 03:51
Alright, so difficult conversation topic number two we heard from our listeners was, “How do I have a race and gender conversation at work without fear?”

JoDee 04:01
Yeah, well, I would start the conversation with the why and anchor it in the organization’s commitment to inclusiveness, even reference the language we published regarding your DEI efforts. So if your company has some policies, they have some statements they’ve made, start with those.

Susan 04:23
And then I would actively listen. I would make sure that I was listening to understand rather than respond, which is a very famous Steven Covey quote, and then be very thoughtful and intentional about the words I used. I would really want to think about what… how did I want to present what I was going to talk about, and as I am listening and understanding, as I respond, be very thoughtful about… there can be real emotions around different words, so be really careful about the words I chose.

JoDee 04:51
Yes. And also work hard at reading the room. Right? If tensions are rising or… or the… the person or several people seem to be shutting down, call a breather. Call it… call a break, or summarize what progress has been made already, note the areas of disagreement, and plan for another meeting.

Susan 05:15

JoDee 05:17
The next question, Susan… “What are some ways to address coworkers who are disrespectful to you? For example, they eat your lunch or the leftover food in the company fridge.”

Susan 05:29
Oh, man, don’t mess with my lunch, JoDee. Do not mess with it. [laughs]

JoDee 05:33
You know, we’ve talked about some of these questions before, which seems so funny, but we regularly get this kind of question.

Susan 05:42
Yeah, you know, first of all, you’re never going to be able to control other people’s behaviors, only your reactions to them. And so if somebody is eating your lunch, either literally or figuratively, or coming at you in the workplace, recognize you’re not going to be able to change anything about them, but how you respond to that is really what’s key here.

JoDee 06:02
Yeah, you can definitely lead by example and demonstrate respect for others and their belongings…like their lunch.

Susan 06:12
Yes. I think when you feel that you’ve been disrespected or treated the way you feel is really unwarranted, I’m going to recommend always trying to go to the place of assuming innocence. Okay, somebody just did something and it didn’t feel good to me. But if I can start with a headset, you know, that maybe they aren’t realizing what they’re doing…. You know, there’s a term out there called “attribution,” which means we tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intention. The fact is, if we really knew the other person’s intention, we might be a lot more sympathetic or understanding of them. So maybe stopping, taking a breath, asking the why someone did something, will really result in some better outcomes.

JoDee 06:56
Right. All that said, though, you may be dealing with an unpleasant person who is going to take advantage of any situation they can. In those instances, we need to set boundaries. People will treat you as you allow them to, so in a gentle but firm way, bring the misdeed to their attention and ask that it not happen again. If it does, then you may need to escalate it to your boss and ask for assistance in solving this.

Susan 07:30
I think that’s fair. So, difficult conversation number four. “How do I ask for a raise?”

JoDee 07:37

Susan 07:38
I get this question from family and friends quite a bit, not all that often from clients, but definitely from my network. I think the first thing you have to do is do your homework to try to really get objectively information on what is the market rate for that… your particular role in your particular location. And of course, you know, we’ve talked about you can go to,,, you can talk to your mentors, talk to executive sponsors, others, to really try to get a line of sight on what is this job worth.

JoDee 08:10
Yes, that is so important. And then once you do that, build your business rationale, really thinking about, What have you contributed? What is your value to the organization? And share your commitment to the organization’s success. I have been very happy here because of this, except for this. [laughs]

Susan 08:34
Yes. [laughs]

JoDee 08:35
You know, lay it… lay it out for them.

Susan 08:38
Makes sense. We have done an episode on this topic. We actually launched it on February 10 of 2017, and it’s entitled “Successful Salary Negotiation.” In preparation for today’s episode, I went back and listened to it. I really do think that the pointers, the tips in there are still very relevant. I think the audience in the world today, given the Great Resignation or the Great Reshuffle or whatever they’re calling it, all the movement that’s happening right now with people and jobs, employers are paying a lot more attention to employees who come forward and say, “Hey, I love it here. I want to grow my career here, except I’m struggling a little bit about where I am pay-wise,” they’re going to be, I think, a more receptive audience for the conversation. So if you get a chance, go back and take a look at that episode, “Successful Salary Negotiation.”

JoDee 09:23
I think it’s one of our best ones. Number five. “How do I say no when I am asked to take on more than I can handle – when asked by my boss or my boss’s boss, or even… even my colleagues? Because I don’t want to let them down, even though I know I just can’t take on more right now.” One of the first things you can do is to develop a cost benefit formula to run each future ask through, really thinking about, What happens if I do this? What happens… happens if I don’t do this? Or even… What happens if I do this and it doesn’t go well, because I didn’t have the time to commit to this project?

Susan 10:11
Yeah, I don’t think it hurts to prepare simple, straightforward kind of scripts or bullets that you’re going to use when you want to decline something that… maybe it’s a shouldn’t do it. “I shouldn’t do it, because I don’t… I’m not good at it.” And so come up with two or three bullets for that particular storyline. Sometimes it’s you can’t do it, you just physically, mentally, you just don’t have the capacity. Maybe a few bullets or a little script around that. And then sometimes you want to say no because you don’t want to do it. Maybe it’s something you absolutely can do, but it is not part of your job description. It’s… it’s really above and beyond, and you really don’t want to do it. Coming up with those two or three things so that you’re ready, once you figure it out, Is it something I shouldn’t do, I can’t do, I don’t want to do? What are the two or three things I’m going to say to help support that?

JoDee 10:59
Yes. And thinking about that, too, I think we can also… not only have those statements, but understand our why around the no, you know, maybe going back to them and saying, “Here’s what I have on my plate right now, and I’m prioritizing this one over the new project,” or “I’ve been asked to prioritize this project by someone else,” or even by the same person, right? [laughs]

Susan 11:28
[laughs] Could be.

JoDee 11:28
They might forget what all you have on your plate. Or even, “I’m leaving on vacation on Friday, and I don’t see that I’ll be able to accomplish this before I leave.” And that can be “Can I do it when I get back?” or “I just am not going to be able to meet your deadline on this,” as well.

Susan 11:50
I think that’s a great point. So sometimes we say no, it’s not no forever. It’s I need to tell you no right now, and here’s why, but let’s talk about when we can get that done. I think that’s a real gentle way, especially when it’s your boss or your boss’s boss and you hate to say that no, but sometimes you have to say no, in order to be effective. The final thing I might just mention here, JoDee, is there is a video that anybody can watch out on Facebook… actually, I think if you just Google it, it’ll come up on any screen you’ve got, that it was a Harvard Business Review video that Christine Liu, L-I-U, did, and it’s less than 10 minutes, so it’s really a quick watch. It’s entitled “How to Say No at Work.” So just Google “how to say no at work,” and certainly, if you want to put in Christine Liu, L-I-U, ‘s name, it’ll come up. It really, I think, is well done, and I think she gives us great pointers on this.

JoDee 12:41
Oh, nice. I’m gonna have to check that one out myself. And what about the question, “How do I tell one of my staff members they just aren’t cutting it?”

Susan 12:52
Can be very painful, I know. First thing I’d do, take a breath, get your facts together, and recognize you want to go into that meeting with the individual and be as objective as you can. Ask yourself some really tough questions. Have I done everything that I can do? Did I make a hiring mistake? Did I ask an individual, maybe, who really didn’t have the skills and abilities to do a job, and I put them in the wrong slot? Have I given them all the training and equipped them with the support that they need to give them a fair shot? I think that you need to ask those questions before you go in there to let somebody know that they aren’t doing what you want them to do.

JoDee 13:31
Right. I think it’s important also to ask yourself the question, Will they be surprised by this information? And I have so many times heard people say that “I had no idea that wasn’t doing a good job. No one gave me feedback,” and yet, you know, as an HR person, I would check their… their personnel files before I talked to them or after the conversation and know that there were several things that were documented, but it just wasn’t… it wasn’t sinking into them, or maybe that they didn’t realize the importance of it, that “Yes, you told me I needed to be on time for work, but I didn’t really think 10 or 15 minutes was a big deal.” Right? So think about how you want to word it based on their level of – or perceived level of – surprise.

Susan 14:34
You know, my favorite coaching model is where you go in and let somebody know what you appreciate about them and then also what isn’t working or how you could be even more effective. The fact is, if they really aren’t cutting it, you’ve got to be very specific about the particular issue. I definitely will let them know I appreciate them spending the time with me, I appreciate the time they’ve given, whatever it is, because they’re humans and they deserve that level of respect. So I would start with what I’ve appreciated, but then I would go right to the jugular and explain, if this is the last stop of the corrective action process, I would review the chances that they have been given and the specific outcomes which have not been met, so that they would hear it, see it, and feel like I’m being as direct as I can be.

JoDee 15:20
Right. You know, these conversations don’t always have to end in a termination or parting ways. But when they do, we also have a previous podcast called “Parting Ways in a Humane Way,” – and that was launched on April 9 of 2018 – where we include lots of different ideas and approaches to this, as well, too.

Susan 15:48
Another question that we got was, “How can I admit I’ve made a mistake and take ownership of the consequences?”

JoDee 15:56
That can be painful, right? We don’t always like to admit that we’ve made a mistake. But I do think it’s important that we take responsibility and we hold ourselves accountable and… and fessing up to that. And you know, it can really even be a powerful approach for people on our teams to hear us say that, to create a culture where they can say that, too. That, “Hey, I made a mistake,” “I missed the boat,” “I didn’t spend as much time on this as I really needed to,” whatever it might be, to stand up and admit it.

Susan 16:40
Yeah, I think nobody likes to look bad in the workplace, to yourself, to your colleagues, to your bosses, but time is not your ally in these situations, and the sooner you own up to having made a mistake, the better to mitigate damages. I truly believe you need to be honest, share what the mistake was, apologize if necessary, because obviously, you’re gonna feel terrible about it. But I would also share what you’ve learned from it and what you plan to do to fix the issue if it’s in your control – and if not, who are you going to ask for help to fix it? I think just be… put it all out on the table. It’s going to be cathartic for you, and it’s going to be, I think, as you say, just really helping others see that you are owning it.

JoDee 17:25
I really liked that one too, and being very clear in what the mistake was or why you’re talking about this, because sometimes someone might say, “I’m sorry, I messed that up.” Well, you might be thinking, well, this… you know, this was very important to our client relationship. This was an important issue that we’ve been talking about for a while. So making sure you’re really on the same page about what the mistake was. And then let some time pass after the fix, and go back and apologize one last time and reconfirm what you have learned from it and what you will do to prevent it from happening again. And this doesn’t need to be overkill, right? For the next five years, we don’t…

Susan 18:20

JoDee 18:20
…need to keep saying “Sorry I screwed up that one project.” But give it a little time, work on it, think about it, and bring it up one more time at least to share your learnings.

Susan 18:33
And honestly, I think that when somebody’s made a mistake at work and they’ve learned from it, that it’s the best on the job training possible. And I think that your manager is going to be like, “Wow, JoDee… we’ve… we invested in her, because she made a mistake, yes, it cost us some money or cost us a relationship, but she’s learned so much, she’s never going to do that again.”

JoDee 18:51
Right. Exactly. Yes. All right, one last question. “How can I tell my boss that I really like and I know needs me that I am leaving the company?” You know, I… I’ve had this question myself personally, where I’ve gone to bosses I really respect and appreciate but I knew the time was right for me to leave.

Susan 19:17
Yeah, I think that what the best thing you could do is… you know your boss, because you really like this person, so figure out what’s the best time for them. You know, know your audience. Is there a good time of the day, a good time when he’s… he or she is feeling their best? Because you don’t want to get them on their low, because that could just really take them down. So try to figure out their right time. And then for you, I think it’s important that you tell them as soon as you can so they have as long of a transition period… I know the norm is normally two weeks. I’ve seen where employees have been so reluctant to tell their boss, they tell them when they only have, like, maybe four days before they start the new job, and that can really cause more pain than necessary. So I say tell them with as much notice as you can give.

JoDee 20:02
And also let them know all the things you appreciate about them and the work you have done together. You might be leaving for lots of different reasons. And, you know, let them know how much you appreciate the time you’ve had with them.

Susan 20:21
I love that. You know, let them know that leaving them is really hard, personally leaving them is hard, and that you hope that you stay connected. And then it’s kind of on you to make sure you do reach back out to them after you’re gone. Touch base with them and make sure that relationship, you’re…. I like to say, “I may be quitting the company but I am not quitting you.”

JoDee 20:40
Yes. Also explain, What is it about the new role that you are excited about? Like, why did you make this decision? Was it a role that’s closer to home? Was it an opportunity for you to take on more responsibility? Does it make more sense for your family? Be honest about what’s different about that role than what you have right now.

Susan 21:08
And I’d offer to do whatever you can between now and your last day to help with that transition.

JoDee 21:13
And then as you mentioned earlier, you know, circle back in a few weeks and thank them again for preparing you for the new role you’re in and wish them well to keep that relationship going. You never know when you might decide you [laughs] want to go back or that maybe they’ll become a client of yours someday, as well, too.

Susan 21:36
Great points. So please, listeners, let us know if you have a difficult conversation that you need to have at work and want any help crafting the approach. We’d love for you to reach out to us. And if you want to participate in any of our future topic polls, please follow us on social media @JoyPowered and/or subscribe to our newsletter at

Susan 22:02
JoDee, I often get asked about why we call our podcast The JoyPowered® Workspace. Would you share with our listeners how you coined the term JoyPowered®, and then I’ll share why it resonates so much with me.

JoDee 22:16
So it really came about when I was writing my first book called “JoyPowered®.” We didn’t come up with the name of it till most of the book was already written. And admittedly, I had some help with a marketing agency… [laughs]

JoDee 22:33
…who helped me coining that term, as well, too. But the premise of the book is… why I even wanted to write the book was that I felt like I was talking to so many people who were unhappy or even miserable in their current role, and I just couldn’t relate to that. Not that my career had always been perfect, but when I wasn’t finding joy in my work – and I might not have been able to articulate that word at the time, but – I found myself moving on and having those conversations with my boss about it. And what I… what I really came to understand about that is the importance of finding joy at work, finding joy in your work, and also just looking for that joy every day, not expecting my boss to bring it to me, but that I had to find that with… within the people I was working with or the projects I was taking on.

Susan 22:33

Susan 23:41
I remember the very first day that I met you in a coffee shop outside of Indianapolis, and you asked me what it was I wanted to do. I was… just had left after 35 years at one organization, and I had done primarily HR all those years, and I knew I still wanted to do human resource work, but I had made up my mind that I only wanted to do joyful work. I know what joyful work is and I know what it’s not. And sometimes when you work for a large organization and you’re helping them downsize and you’re helping them reorganize, you’re… you’re doing a variety of different things, it’s not very joyful. And I said I want for the rest of my life that I’m working in human resources to only help further joy in the workplace. And so the whole point of your… your writing your book about JoyPowered®… Yes! It just said it in one word so simply to me. I want to be JoyPowered®. And hence, here we are in a podcast hoping all of our listeners are feeling joyful.

JoDee 24:38
That’s right. So maybe you were in my subconscious that that’s where I got that word.

Susan 24:44
I don’t know, but I love it. We… never enough joy out there.

JoDee 24:48

Susan 24:50
JoDee, it’s time for in the news. published an article on January 14, 2022, written by Michelle McGovern, entitled “Nine Ways to Make Hybrid Meetings More Effective.” I really like their nine suggestions. I think they make sense for organizations who sometimes have people in the office as well as some people joining virtually. Why don’t we go through those?

JoDee 25:14
Well, as we should ask with any kind of meeting, question whether the meeting is really necessary. Can we send out this information in an email or do a quick video, or do we need to have a meeting?

Susan 25:30
Yeah, that’s great. The number two thing you can do – assign a team member to be the producer to handle technology issues throughout the meeting. It’s awful when the presenter is trying to handle the technical issues and it slows everything down. Have somebody assigned for that role for that meeting.

JoDee 25:45
Right. And use and encourage everyone to use the chat throughout the meeting. That’s a way to keep people engaged in the meeting itself and respect that people have questions that you want to answer for them.

Susan 26:03
And then really work at bringing in those remote participants. Have a big screen in front of the room with in-person participants. Call upon remote people and have them speak up, and force that everybody needs to turn their camera on unless there’s some extreme circumstances preventing it, or if they can’t have their screen on, have at least their photo displayed.

JoDee 26:25
I like it. Make sure the presenter is the main focus and that the remote audience can see that person. The presenter needs a view of the remote audience, as well, so they can see how they are reacting. So both sides really should be able to see each other, see that body language or look at those questioned faces.

Susan 26:52
Yes. Include everyone in everything, especially, like, when there’s a breakout or collaboration session. If you have the people inside the room break into small groups, make sure you’ve got everybody who’s joining virtually into virtual breakout rooms.

JoDee 27:06
And make that audio a priority. There is nothing worse to me than being in a remote meeting where you can’t hear some of the people or the other people are saying they can’t hear you. That is so frustrating.

Susan 27:23
And then level the Q&A playing field. So when it’s time for questions and answers, alternate between the people in the… physically in the room and the people who are virtual. It makes people feel respected and it keeps the dynamic, I think, much more upbeat.

JoDee 27:38
Yeah. And then find out… assess your success of the meeting itself. Ask people for input, both the presenter and the audiences, remotely and live in the meeting, about their ability to see, hear, participate, and make adjustments, as well. Well, thanks for listening today and make it a JoyPowered® day.

Susan 28:02
Thank you.

Susan 28:03
If you would like SHRM recertification credit for listening to this podcast, please visit You’ll find an evaluation of the podcast, and once you complete the evaluation, you will see the SHRM recertification credit code and a link to a proof of participation certificate. Again, that’s Thank you for listening, and thanks for your dedication to the HR profession.

Susan 28:32
Thank you for listening. If you liked the show, please tell your friends about it and let us know what you think by rating and reviewing us on Apple Podcasts.

JoDee 28:40
You can learn more about JoyPowered® at Check out The JoyPowered® Shop, where you can order our books, journals, and other items that power our joy, at We’re @JoyPowered on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter and you can email us at

Susan 29:08
We hope you tune in next time. Make it a JoyPowered® day.

Emily Miller
Emily Miller
Emily works behind the scenes at JoyPowered, helping to edit and publish the books, producing the podcast, and running the website and social media.

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